The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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George Henry Boughton, 1833-1905

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1833
Place of Birth: Near Norwich
Date of Death: 1905.01.19
Place of Death: Campden Hill studio, London


George Henry Boughton was a painter and illustrator. He was the son of William Boughton. He married Catherine Boughton, and they had an adopted daughter, Florence or 'Flossie'.


Boughton was born near Norwich in England but was raised in Albany, New York. He began painting at an early age and was largely self-taught. At the age of nineteen he sold his first work to the American Art Union and used the proceeds to visit London. He returned to the States for two years, then studied in Paris, and finally in the early 1860s he settled in London, where he and his wife became known for their entertaining Sunday dinners. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1863.

He became a friend of JW's whilst studying in Paris in 1860. He described JW at this time as 'Breezy, buoyant and debonnair, sunny and affectionate'. He greatly admired JW's At the Piano (YMSM 24). The two men renewed their acquaintance in London and were in correspondence in the late 1880s. Boughton became an ARA in 1879 and RA in 1896. He believed that if JW had known how to behave himself he could have been President of the Royal Academy. However, JW was never even elected to membership.

Boughton was a member of the Arts Club from 1869 until 1896. According to Boughton, it was he who suggested to JW whilst in the smoking room of the Arts Club that Ruskin's infamous comment of 1877 about 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face' was libelous. Boughton was also a member of the Reform Club, the Athenaeum Club, the Burlington Fine Arts Club and the Grolier Club in New York which was to publish E. G. Kennedy's catalogue of JW's etchings in 1910.

Boughton was elected as a member of the National Academy of Design in America in 1871. He acted as artistic adviser to Marquand and other American picture collectors. His own paintings which were predominantly concerned with figures in a landscape, particularly female peasants at work, were decorative and sentimental in character. His book illustrations include designs for Sketching Rambles in Holland (London, 1884), which he completed together with Edwin A. Abbey, Rip van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (London, 1893) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The courtship of Miles Standish, and other poems. He also published a number of short stories in Harper's Magazine and the Pall Mall Magazine.


Records of The Arts Club, London; Baldry, Alfred Lys, G. H. Boughton, R. A.: His Life and Work, London, 1904; UK census 1881 at (accessed 2004.03); Boughton, G. H., 'A Few of the Various Whistlers I have Known', Studio, vol. 30, December 1903, pp. 208-18; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.